The residents of Amsterdam desperately need a break on what they pay for government services.
So while Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti’s proposed $38.26 million city budget appears to be fiscally sound without cutting government services, the mayor and members of the Common Council need to go through the spending plan further and find ways to help ease the financial burden on residents from a concurrent rise in the tax rate and proposed rate increases for water, sewer and sanitation.
A public hearing on the budget will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m., at which time city officials will get to hear the public’s thoughts on where to cut spending or increase revenues in order to bring down the hikes.
Under the proposed budget, which raises city spending by 7.6 percent, or about $2.7 million, the property tax rate would increase $17 a year on a property assessed at $100,000. Combined with an increase in individual fees for water, sewer and sanitation, a property owner’s burden could increase more than $50 next year. Fees for both water and sanitation are jumping more than 4 percent next year.
The mayor attributed much of the hikes to inflation and the need to cover the costs of government staff through collective bargaining agreements and government operations, including chemical costs for the water treatment plant, liability insurance and a new street sweeper.
While $50 doesn’t seem that much of an increase, when one considers the financial health of many city residents, even a relatively small increase in property taxes or government services can be a hardship for some families.
If city officials could find a way to hold the line on either the property taxes or the fees, or even both, it could help alleviate the hardship that many families will feel.
The likely best option would be to look at bringing down that 7.6 percent spending increase.
Could the city, for instance, forego the purchase of a new street sweeper, proposed at $230,000? Would that help save money? Can they negotiate lower insurance fees?
Are there ways for individual departments to pare back spending to help bring the tax rate down? In every budget, there’s always a little fat — a little give and take. City leaders and department heads have an obligation to the taxpayers to find every extra nickel.
As for the fees, city officials should look at ways to increase efficiency, perhaps finding savings in fuel or equipment purchases.
By doing everything they can to reduce the increase in the taxes and fees, Amsterdam officials would be sending a message to their citizens that they feel their pain and they know that people need a break from the rising cost of government.
The council has until June 1 to find places to trim the tax hike or fee increases.
Let’s hope they make it time well spent.